Actual Cost Analysis from Texas DOT, 2009-2014
Beginning in 2009, South Texas Department of Transportation districts began retrofitting existing signs utilizing retrofit upgrade options either to replace older technology or to update troublesome signs. Through this time period, the tracking of average installed costs versus new installation costs was provided by contractors in 2014.
This comparison is based on each sign's capability of projecting 3 lines of 18 characters, 18 “high characters in amber color. The new DMS option does not reflect any feature upgrades to the signs each district may have added. The new DMS pricing is the minimum amount on the current purchasing contract at that time for four years. Both options were front access type signs. Excluded was the superstructure or support costs - given that retrofitting would use existing structures, the cost is not evaluated here. Contractors and the DOT estimates that new structures for overhead applications run $150,000-$200,000.
Recorded Comparative Costs, Retrofit Upgrade vs. New DMS
|Retrofit Upgrade||TxDOT New DMS|
|Initial Cost of Sign Package||$39,000||$46,790|
|DMS for Factory Acceptance Testing||Included||$1,500|
|Controller Mounting, Without Cabinet||Included||$600|
|Transport DMS or Retrofit to Site||Included||$3,700|
|Removing Existing DMS or Internal Parts||Included||$4,500|
|Instal New DMS (Labor and Crane)||Included||$5,000|
|Mounting Brackets and Accessories (Hardware Only)||N/A||$4,500|
Cables Between Sign and Controller or Between Sign and
|Traffic Control During Dismantling||1 Day||1 Day|
|Traffic Control During Installation||1/2 Day||1 Day|
|Testing & Commissioning by DMS Supplier||Included||Included|
|COST DIFFERENTIAL (42% MORE)||$28,340|
It is difficult to accurately assess the ongoing costs of repairs and maintenance needed in all signs. The parts, maintenance, and labor were less than $50,000 for five years in the retrofitted signs, according to part records and contractor estimates. With no ventilation system needed and LED electrical efficiency markedly higher in retrofit upgrades, further assessment would indicate electrical usage in South Texas to be 50% less (this was not factored due to lack of records). Overall, additional financial highlights include:
|Number of DMS Retrofitted in South Texas Since 2009||297|
|Total Cost of Retrofitted DMS||$11,583,000|
|Total Cost of New DMS||$20,089,080|
|Minimum Remaining DMS Retrofits TxDOT to Award
(Estimated as of 12/31/2014)
|Total Potential Savings||$2,834,000|
|Total Real & Potential Savings Represents
(New DMS vs. Retrofit Upgrades)
|169 / 291|
|SESA Retrofit||TxDOT New DMS Purchase|
|Installation on Existing Structures||Install ready, no weight added||New sign heavier, structural analysis required|
|Technology||Surface mounted LED||Through hole LED|
|Controller||Multi DMS controller with WYZIWIG screen,
web based software, and maintenance indicators
|1070 type controller|
|Controller & Modem Location||Roadside controller cabinet||Mounted within DMS housing, lane closure
may be required
|Maintenance Access||Front access, 3 character door design||Front access - one piece lift door, entire sign face|
|Power Consumption||35% - 50% more energy efficient||Higher consumption due to LED design and
|Ventilation||No Ventilation Needed
No additional extraneous maintenance cost,
no associated parts cost
Filters/regular maintenance, lane closure, higher
|Delivery Time||45-day average for South Texas||150-day average for South Texas|
|DMS Letter Capacity||3 lines of 15 or 18 characters, 18" high||3 lines of 18 characters, 18" high|
Since January 1, 2015, South Texas DOT districts continue to deploy retrofit upgrades at similar cost-benefit margins, varying by location and physical requirements. Advancements in field experience and technique has led to increased production time with some regions completing upgrade installations in less than a day. With the implementation of color retrofit upgrades soon to be instituted, further cost-analysis can be done to compare new color DMS in similar size and display capability.
A current financial assessment is underway with the Arizona DOT, who have completed 50 signs from 2014 to now, with nearly all completed in less than four hours of on-site work. Once the metropolitan area signs are completed, accurate numbers will be available based on AzDOT assessments. AzDOT self-installs all retrofit upgrades with in-house ITS maintenance personnel.
Our retrofit upgrades have been utilized all across the country in every climate, including inside the Arctic Circle of Alaska. From the devastatingly humid to the bitter cold, all climates have unique aspects to consider when evaluating best use and value dynamics.
Do you have any experiences with evaluating the short and long term value of new DMS implementations? How about any feedback on future design or installation analyses for a unique application, location, or environment? Share your comments below!